I miss Bill. Notes on a Clinton riff in Little Rock last night. | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I miss Bill. Notes on a Clinton riff in Little Rock last night.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 9:50 AM

click to enlarge A GALA NIGHT: Bill Clinton gives Elizabeth Smith the volunteer of the year award at last night's party for volunteers at his presidential library. - TWITTER/KAREN GARCIA
  • Twitter/Karen Garcia
  • A GALA NIGHT: Bill Clinton gives Elizabeth Smith the volunteer of the year award at last night's party for volunteers at his presidential library.
Amid the antics of the Republican presidential primary race — full of overheated rhetoric, exaggeration, talking points and little by way of factual discussion of issues, I got a dose of Bill Clinton last night. What a contrast.

Clinton spoke at the annual event honoring library volunteers. (I was a guest of a volunteer, my wife.) He closed with a reflection on events that happened 20 years ago. For those who think the Clinton years inconsequential, think again.

There was Oklahoma City. There was his visit to Northern Ireland and a peace accord that continues to hold, if imperfectly. There was the end of fighting in Bosnia, an uneasy peace that continues to hold. He told a remarkable story of a single male survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, now mayor, who invited the leader of Serbia to a memorial service in the interest of moving forward, not back. There was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin following the historic agreement with Palestine, a process in which Clinton participated. There was the beginning of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, now a strong ally in Asia. And there was one little item that Clinton tied into the current debate about Syrian refugees.

This reference was to Clinton's decision to bail out Mexico, a decision opposed by 80 percent of Americans. Mexico repaid the money early, with interest. Its economic condition has improved so much that, from 2010 to 2014, the net inflow of Mexicans to the United States has been a negative. More have returned home to Mexico than have entered the U.S. (And still Donald Trump wants to build more walls and Mike Huckabee would probably triple him.) Autodidact Clinton spun off figures about the push for college education in Mexico. By his account, the much smaller country is nearly approaching the U.S. in the annual graduation of college-educated engineers. I didn't take notes and I had no recorder, so I can't tell you exactly how he put it, but the essence of his message was that you do better over the long haul with neighborliness. This makes more friends than closed borders and hostility. 

He spoke warmly, too, of France, referring repeatedly to the recent tragedy and praising the swift reaction by the French government to the slaughter.

He said the Clinton Library and his namesake school of public service could contribute to better understanding and predicted that a look back at 20 years of Clinton School graduates would show  some politicians, some government workers, but likely a predominance of people in the private sector. But he predicted  they would still be engaged in public works, too.

Clinton's politics then and now are about accommodation and progress. He's spoken within the last week at a tribute to former opponent Bob Dole, who he said, along with Newt Gingrich, wanted to back the Mexican bailout but were told they'd be deposed from GOP leadership roles if they supported him. A centrist, Clinton nonetheless will forever be seen as too progressive for the hard-core right. Personal aspects will forever earn condemnation by others.

But between command of the material and his eternal efforts to convert enemies and produce solutions to difficult problems, I don't see any on the national stage  his equal. One of them, at least, seems likely to have him close at hand for advice.

I wish I had a recording. It was an impressive riff (in a raspy, thin voice that suggests he's doing a lot of talking).

Tags: , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Ex-Hog Darrell Walker spotlighted for collection of work by black artists

    Former Razorback basketball player Darrell Walker and his art collection get a mention in today's New York Times in an article about the rising profiles and prices of black artists.
    • Nov 29, 2015
  • Is Arkansas in or out on Kobach voter data effort?

    The Washington Post has published a map that counts Arkansas as among states that will "partially comply" with a sweeping request for voter data by the so-called election integrity commission set up by Donald Trump in an effort to cast doubt on Hillary Clinton's 3 million-vote popular defeat of him in 2016.
    • Jul 2, 2017
  • Al Gore remembers Dale Bumpers

    Former Vice President Al Gore, a former U.S. Senate colleague of Dale Bumpers, sent a statement on Bumpers' death Friday:
    • Jan 3, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation